Oh Thomas, poor Thomas

Sweet Jesus, we ask that all who have been reborn in you may experience again and again the exhilaration of your Easter miracle with a childlike faith unencumbered with doubt . We pray in your name. Amen.

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


Oh Thomas. Poor Thomas. Poor, poor Thomas. He was the only one left out in the cold the day the risen Jesus dropped in. He was the only one who didn’t get to see Jesus in the flesh. All the others saw him, but not Thomas. And in his frustration and disappointment, he stomped his foot and said those fateful words by which he would be known forevermore, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Oh Thomas, you spoke without thinking. Apparently your mama didn’t teach you that little prayer, “Lord make my words sweet and tender today because tomorrow I may have to eat them.” And eat them he did.

A week later, Jesus called him to task, saying “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas looked into the eyes of his beloved Jesus, dispensed all doubt and fell to his knees crying, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus accepted his belief and added, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Today we are called upon to believe without seeing. It’s not really all that difficult, is it? Undoubtedly, we all believe in Jesus, the god man we have never seen. Why, if I had been there the day the disciples told Thomas the good news, I think I would have believed. After all, I’m a mature individual. At this point in life, I have seen it all. Nothing surprises me. I’ve seen life and I’ve seen death. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly and really, is there anything that surprises any of us anymore? Was resurrection really that big a deal?

If I spend any time at all basking in the artificial light of this judgment call, like Thomas, I would have to recant. You see, those of us who are mature think like Thomas. We are the product of a society in which we have lived half our lives, a society that perfectly reflects the words of Thomas, “Unless I see . . . and touch . . ., I will not believe.” We are a bottom line society, cut to the chase, get to the point, what you see is what you got, give me the numbers, show me the money, what’s the profit, what’s the loss. Don’t ask me to believe until I have all the information in black and white. Yes, our words are the words of a doubting Thomas, not the words of a fanciful, gullible believer. If you don’t believe me, read on.

While we as mature adults could have brought so much to the early church, such as our wisdom, knowledge, organizational, social and political skills, Jesus did not go around picking old people as his disciples. He picked young people. He picked people who were willing to walk away from anything and everything to follow him. He picked young people who were unafraid to believe the unbelievable. He didn’t go after the mothers and fathers of Peter, James and John, Mary, Martha, or Mary Magdalene. My hunch is if he had, the church would never have gotten off the ground. There would never have been enough energy, or strong knees and hips. There would have been way too many doctors’ appointments, visits to Walgreens, and long afternoon naps. No. Jesus went to the young. It is our children who believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, those fantastical symbols of life and love and generosity. Young people take flights of fancy, as did the disciples who were young enough to take on a tremendous, demanding, frightening, and challenging journey with Jesus.

While I believe that the mature person has much to offer the community of God, I have yet to find one who did not come to Christ when young enough to suspend belief and believe. I’m going to guess that you have the energy and desire to be reading this blog right now because you came to Christ in your youth. Think about it. When did you first experience that moment of knowledge, that light switch, that enthusiasm, and conviction that Jesus was and is real, really real. Was it after you were sixty or seventy? Had you just turned fifty or was it sometime before thirty or forty? Or can you go even further back to the days when you sang “I got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay; Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so; the B.I.B.L.E. It stands alone as the word of God, the B.I.B.L.E.; those songs. How many of you can track your faith back to a time when you had the ability to take flights of fancy and suspend belief and believe? Was it when you still believed in fantastical symbols of life, love and generosity; and in angels, wise men, shepherds, baby Jesus and his pretty mother? That childlike belief was the powerful building block of a tenacious faith that sustains us throughout life. It is the path to the conviction, sight unseen that Jesus went to Golgotha where he moved from death on the cross to the grave, from the tomb of death to life. You can believe it.

The good news is, it doesn’t matter how old we are now. Once we have taken this flight of fancy, we get to take it again and again. You took it today. You bought a ticket. You turned on your computer and pulled up this blog. You weren’t too tired. You weren’t too frail, too hard of hearing, too set in your ways, too technologically phobic or too afraid to ask a friend to download it for you.

You can climb on board. Our flight is about to take off. Hold tight to Jesus’ hem if you have any doubt left to be healed. He will take care of that so that each and every one of us can be confident in his joy when times are good or bad or ugly. We can trust his light presence even when we are flying low through the valley of the shadow of death. He will fly us through this universe on a fantastical flight of fancy and faith, an Easter Journey taking us from birth through life to death and back again to life. Are you packed and ready? Great! Let’s go. We’ll show those kids a thing or two!


Looking for the living among the dead?

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection
Luke 24:1-12
On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. . . “


Why do you look for the living among the dead?

Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
This joyous Easter greeting rings out around the world ever since the women found the empty tomb at early dawn on the first day of the week after the Crucifixion. These were the women who took care of Jesus while he lived. Now, they were prepared to take care of him in his death. When they arrived at the tomb, they were taken aback. The stone was rolled away, and instead of the dead body of their Lord, they were confronted by two men in dazzling clothes asking, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

In my line of work, I generally caution people to avoid “Why Questions.” First, they are a waste of time. Just get to the point. Worse yet, they are triggers for lies, excuses, and a host of assorted other defensive retorts that instantly sabotage communication. At some level, the recipient of the dreaded Why Question knows that there will be no answer to satisfy the critical asker. “Why isn’t your room clean?!?” hmm Now what can that careless adolescent say that will satisfy a frustrated parent? Obviously, nothing!

The two men in dazzling clothing, however, were brave souls. They asked a Why Question that was never intended for the women to answer. They knew the women had witnessed the lifeless body of Christ taken down from the cross, the blood and water flowing from his riven side. They saw him laid in that very tomb where they now stood, terrified, with their faces bowed to the ground. The angels knew exactly why the women were there. So as not to waste time, they quickly answered their own question. “Jesus is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

There were no more Why Questions at that point. The angels simply sent the women away from the house of the dead to the world of the living, to spread the news of Life. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! And that is what the women did, no questions asked.

As we begin the 50 days of Easter Season, I still hear the angels’ question, “Why do you look for living among the dead?” Their words must be as relevant today as they were on that Resurrection Day. Obviously, God still sees us grubbing about in the dead, attempting to find life. When does that happen? Is it when we spend an exorbitant amount of time revisiting old dead hurts, resentments, and grudges? Do we love to stir the pot of unjust slights and insults? Do we replay over and over in our mind some revenge we could justify with our righteous anger? Or even worse, do we burden others with our simmering resentments, as we enlist allies for our vendetta? Do we live out our life as the angry victim, justifying bitterness and hostility, puffing ourselves up with negative energy? Are we seduced into thinking this is life? That anything good will ever be realized from such dead end behaviors? If so, the angels will ask their Why Question again and again, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Give careful thought to your answer. Trust me. I doubt that any excuse or defensive justification will satisfy them.

Remember, the angels did not send the women out to launch a PR assault on the unjust torture and crucifixion of Jesus. They were not asked to organize a war of revenge. No. They were sent to the living with the good news of a Life energized by repentance and forgiveness. Days later, disciples were brought before a concerned and angry Jewish council accusing them of putting the blood of Jesus on their heads. Like the women, Peter carried the clear message that God had raised up Jesus as Leader and Savior, not to organize a vengeful rebellion, but to offer Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. The open arms of Jesus on the cross was not an act of rejection and estrangement. It was an embrace.

In some ways the Season of Easter is much like the Season of Epiphany. Both are seasons of discovery. Epiphany invited us to take in the identity of Jesus, recognizing the signs and symbols of his kingship. Easter invites us to take in his resurrection, to recognize it historically and personally. Easter tells us, for the sake of our spiritual life, it is time to walk away from the tomb. Listen to the angels when they tell us that we will not find life among the dead where reside the very things that would be the death of our soul.

It’s a new day, a Resurrection day, a glorious day for a walk, don’t you think? We should be able to catch up with those women if we hurry. They do have a bit of a head start on us, but I can hear their lively voices even now, singing a song of resurrection all about love and repentance, life and forgiveness. Listen. I think they are starting the chorus. “Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!”

Let’s go! Hurry!

And don’t waste time asking why!